Friday, October 15, 2010

How to make an English girth, part one

It's been a long time since I've published a Tack Tips article, but hopefully this one will be worth the wait!  Today and tomorrow I will show you how I make a traditional size contoured English girth.

I start by tracing my pattern onto a lightweight piece of leather.  Next, I use a sharp pair of scissors to cut out the girth.  Before proceeding to the next step, I always double check the girth's length on the model.  If I skip this step, my girths always end up being too long.  Always.
Once I'm satisfied with the girth body, I cut two short lengths of 1/8" elastic and glue them to the shorter end of the girth.  
After the glue has dried, I fold the elastic over and glue it to the other side.
I like my tack to be tough, so I always secure high stress areas with both glue and stitches.  Needlenose pliers and sturdy sewing needles make it easier to sew through multiple layers of leather and elastic.
The next step is to cover the girth body.  I cut a long rectangle of skiver and glue it to the girth as shown.
While the glue is still wet, I flip the girth over and liberally coat the skiver with gum tragacanth.  I stretch the skiver over and around the girth body until it stands out in relief.
I turn the girth over again and apply glue down one half of the entire length of the girth.
Working quickly, I fold the skiver over the girth and pull it tight.
Once the glue is set, I take my X-acto knife and cut a line down the middle of the girth. I use just enough pressure to cut through the skiver without cutting into the body of the girth.  I then peel off the excess skiver. 
Before I repeat this step on the other side, I trim the skiver as shown.  This makes it easier for me to match up the sides in the middle.
Then it's back to glue and fold.
Overlapping skiver is trimmed away with the knife.
The next step is to add the overlay.  I cut this piece from my skiver...
and glue it right on top of the girth.  I will then decorate the overlay with my stitchmarker and seal the girth with several coats of Satin Sheen.
The main body of the girth is now complete.  Tomorrow we'll finish it up!


  1. Thank you for this tutorial!!!

  2. What kind of leather glue do you use?

  3. I use Aileen's Super Thick Tacky Glue for almost everything. I like its fast "grab" and easy clean-up. It dries quickly but not *too* quickly and forms a strong and flexible bond. Most important, it's nontoxic and doesn't smell bad. Oh yeah, it's cheap, too! :)

  4. You're my hero :D Thanks for posting this!

  5. Does the super thick tacky glue work well on the elastic? I haven't had much luck with it on synthetic materials like nylon ribbon.

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  6. Thanks everyone for the positive feedback. These tutorials are a lot of work so it's nice to know they're appreciated!

    Allie, I've had no trouble attaching elastic to leather with the Super Thick Tacky Glue. It seems to form a nice strong bond and probably the stitching is overkill. Still, I'd rather be safe than sorry--I always sew the attachment points on my girths.

  7. Oh, Jen - thank you!! I plan on making a saddle and bridle for a hunter class in March, and I so needed to learn how to make a girth!! You rock!!

  8. I know this comment is really late, but where do you get your stitch maker?

  9. No worries, Karen. I love getting new comments on old posts! The information you are looking for can be found here. Good luck!

  10. This is truly AMAZING. I do full size custom saddlery work and was trying to find a resource to figure out how to make roller buckles for full size horse girths. This popped up in the results and put me on part two of the tutorial. It took me a surprisingly long time (reading through the entire second part) for it to dawn on me that the girth was for a model horse! AMAZING!

  11. I know you don't want to do a full saddle tutorial, but would you mind telling me what you use for panels? Do you stuff them (like real saddles) or use foam or something else? Thank you very much!

  12. What stitch marker do you use?

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